Faulkner Walsh Constructors To Pay $4 Million To Remove Sunken Barge In Kuskokwak Slough

Mar 16, 2020

The Kuskokwim River near Bethel.
Credit Krysti Shallenberger / KYUK

The state government has been working in court to get Kuskokwim River waters cleaned up. The State Superior Court has ordered Faulkner Walsh Constructors, a Bethel construction company, to pay $4,234,414 to remove a barge that has been sunken for years. 

On Oct. 4, 2012, a barge called the “Delta Chief” sank in the Kuskokuak Slough near Bethel. It’s still there, and a jury has decided that the owner of the barge has to pay to clean it up. The state sued Faulkner Walsh Constructors, and a jury has found that the company failed to heed a warning about where the barge was left during a storm.  

“According to Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, ‘The people of Alaska and especially the residents of Western Alaska deserve more than the defendants’ unsuccessful attempts to lift the Delta Chief. They deserve safe and navigable waters,’” said Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr.

According to court documents, the Delta Chief left Birch Tree near Aniak on Oct. 3, 2012 with a full load of gravel. After a day’s travel down the Kuskokwim, the boat’s captain decided to dock. The tugboat’s pilot advised the captain to dock in shallower waters because of an incoming storm, but the captain ignored his advice and parked the Delta Chief next to a cut bank in water about 30 feet deep.

Winds picked up, and 30 mile-per-hour gusts and large waves toppled the barge and sank both the boat and its gravel payload. Faulkner Walsh Constructors attempted to recover the vessel at least twice, but failed. Now, the court says that the job still has to be done.

Faulkner Walsh will have to pay $4,234,414 in damages to remove the barge and clear the waterways for residents along the Kuskokwim River.

Correction: An earlier version of the headline for this story stated Faulkner Walsh Constructors would pay $14 million to remove a sunken barge from the Kuskokwim River. The actual amount is $4,234,414.